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Gabrielle Reece Isn't (Always) Submissive

Volleyball pro Gabrielle Reece, whose new book My Foot Is Too Big for the Glass Slipper just hit bookstores, did not expect to cause an Internet frenzy when she told the Today show last week that she is "submissive" to her husband.

She thought the chapters in her book about her "very defined" attitude about sex with her husband, professional surfer Laird Hamilton, or even swearing could potentially raise eyebrows. But this? "I didn't know they were going to take the whole concept of being submissive so far out of context," she said in a phone interview.

Maybe that's because her personality on the volleyball court—and throughout her career as an athlete, model and TV personality—has been so take-charge. But, according to Reece, who's also mom to three daughters, that's not how she plays when it comes to home life. After all, with two alpha parents in the house, sometimes it's better, she says, to focus on holding up your side of things as a spouse.

And besides, she admits, sometimes she's a badass. "I'm one or the other, moment to moment," she writes.

In addition to talking about submissiveness in the book, Reece also discusses everything from her fairytale marriage nearly ending in divorce to expressing breast milk in an airplane bathroom.

She even dives into what "having it all" does and doesn't mean. Let's just say her answer is, it can't be done.

I don't want to have a combative dynamic. I don't want to have a power struggle.

What did you mean by "submissive"? That seems so different from your "take-charge" personality.

Gabrielle Reece: There are so many women that are very take-charge but then when you're within the confines of your own home, who's playing the male role and who's playing the female? I was just saying, in my own environment, I have decided and chosen that that really worked best with our dynamic. And again, this is not about equality. This is about making a choice to say, for the greater good of your particular situation, what's it going to take? Especially when you have a reciprocal partner. We're not talking about you being a punching board for somebody. He's holding up his side, and then you're saying you'll do this side.

I don't want to have a combative dynamic. I don't want to have a power struggle.

You're so frank in your book. Did you have trouble opening up about sensitive topics like marriage and motherhood? What did your husband think?

I only gave him the parts that I thought were very intimate and that he needed to know. My thing is that if I'm going to do a book, and I'm going to attempt to even say anything and waste people's time by going, "Hey, listen to me" or "Let me tell you a story," I would at least honor that by trying to be as honest as I could be without being gratuitous to my family.

And I think coming from sports and having the female friends that I have, that's kind of the language. It's very, "This is how it is—good and bad."

Why can't we make these topics very matter-of-fact, very frank, not taboo, and not something that we need to be ashamed of or embarrassed by, but something we're all just trying to work on?

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In your book, you wrote that mothering was easier once you let go of expectations. What did you mean by that?

First of all, all my kids were going to have dark skin and light eyes, and they were going to act a certain way and be really smart and be really athletic and well-behaved, and they were going to be emotionally well-adjusted, and my list was long. Some of those traits are very true to my daughters, and, guess what, they have some other ones that I'd never thought of—some I would want for them and some I see will be an obstacle that they're going to have to deal with in their own lives.

And I'm going to do my best to not project on them what I think they should do and who they should be. But try to help them connect with who they are and how to be that best person.

I have one daughter who's very emotional and sensitive, and I'm like, "She's going to pay for that so badly." But I have to teach her and have an open dialogue with her and tell what a beautiful quality it is—but teach her how to manage that.

What will you tell your daughters (9-year-old Reece, 5-year-old Brody and 17-year-old stepdaughter Izabella) about marriage and relationships?

My husband and I try to live it, so it's right there in front of them. More than talking to them, it's us being physical, real examples. If I say, "Dad and I need alone time," and they say, "Why do you need alone time?" I joke with them and say, "Do you guys want to live in separate houses?"

I tell them, "You guys are a given. Moms and dads have to work at being together, and some of that means having quality alone time."

Women sometimes get caught up in being a wife, mother or employee, or all of the above. When and how can you just be you and have me-time?

Girlfriends really reinforce the "you," the girl in you. I have friends who I can speak really frankly with and rabble-rouse with them. That's why I like exercise. I sweat, I have my hair in a ponytail, and I'm just like a person, just moving around. That's my easiest way to connect with just the "me."

When it comes to "having it all," you say it can't be done.

We'll be at a birthday party, and my kids will say, "Can I have the cookies and ice cream and cake?" And I say, "No, you can't have it all." And I say, "You can have half the ice cream and half of the cookie or half the cake and half the ice cream." We know from very early that we can't have it all. Why do we set ourselves up in our adult life to think that we can?

It's also about when. And it's not about, "You better decide if you're going to be a stay-at-home mom or a professional." Well maybe you're professional and maybe you're deciding to be a stay-at-home mom, and maybe later you're going to rejigger that. It's like saying you want to be skinny but you're eight months pregnant, so maybe this isn't the time to have that expectation.

We have a Project Dad feature on mom.me that spotlights dads and parenting. What has impressed you about your husband and his parenting?

My husband is very loving and present. He teaches my girls how to manage and enjoy risk intelligently and in an equipped way. He's honest with them and he's there.

He and I are also very consistent about parenting together. He'll also say to me, "You're there and you love them."

Sometimes when it comes to parenting, when you don't know if you're being too hard or not hard enough, sometimes just going, "You know what, I'm here, I'm committed and I love them." Some days, you just have to go to bed knowing that's pretty good.

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